The House elected Rep. Mac McCutcheon as House speaker on Monday to start the 2016 special legislative session called by the governor and the Alabama Legislature began committee hearings today on various lottery and gambling bills, including some designed to provide funding for the state’s General Fund and to prop up Medicaid.
Speaker McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, is in his third term. He is a retired crime investigator for the city of Huntsville.
Governor Bentley called the extraordinary session to ask legislators to approve a constitutional amendment authorizing a state lottery to support the General Fund and for legislation to fund infrastructure, Medicaid, or debt repayment.
The language on “infrastructure investment” prompted some legislators to believe this would open the door to raising the state’s gas tax, the Montgomery Advertiser reported.
Speaker McCutcheon, with the backing of the Business Council of Alabama and the Association of County Commissions of Alabama, sponsored a bill last spring that would have raised the state’s gas tax from 18 cents a gallon to 24 cents, the Advertiser said. Speaker McCutcheon said he would not sponsor a gas tax bill in the special current session and did “not know” if anyone else would.
Supporters argued the state’s infrastructure needed the increased revenues but the bill did not pass amid opposition from legislators who are opposed to tax increases. The tax was last increased 5 cents per gallon in 1992.
A total of seven proposed lottery related constitutional amendments were introduced by House members and five by senators. The amendments ask voters to approve some form of lottery or video gambling in order to prop up the General Fund or provide education scholarships.
The Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee today approved the governor’s lottery bill and another one, both by Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville.
The session cannot last more than 12 working days within 30 calendar days. However, lottery legislation will have to be approved by Aug. 24 in order for it to appear on the November ballot; otherwise any amendment would be subject to a special election.
Other legislation introduced by House and Senate members would authorize bond issues and create mechanisms to distribute Alabama’s share of money from the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill.
Sen. McClendon sponsored SB 3, Governor Bentley’s lottery bill that would earmark money for Medicaid, and SB 11, that asks voters to authorize video lottery terminals at the existing greyhound tracks in Birmingham, and Greene, Macon, and Mobile counties.
SB 11 would earmark money for the General Fund and Medicaid, and create an Alabama Education Legacy Fund that would distribute lottery money to Alabama’s Pre-K program, career technical scholarships, and public schools, and would require the governor to negotiate a compact for gaming with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.
The committee approved both bills on voice votes.
Other lottery related constitutional amendments and their sponsors include:
HB 6, Rep. Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, would establish an Alabama lottery to fund scholarships for students to attend two-year and four-year Alabama colleges and create an Alabama Lottery Corp. to implement and regulate a lottery.
HB 7 also by Rep. Ford would create an Alabama lottery and Alabama Lottery Corp., authorize gaming at the state’s four greyhound tracks, tax receipts, and authorize the governor to negotiate a gaming compact with Poarch Band of Creek Indians for Class III gambling at the casinos in Atmore, Montgomery, and Wetumpka. Rep. Ford also sponsored HB 8, a constitutional amendment to authorize electronic bingo in Etowah County.
HB 12 by Rep. Alan Harper, R-Northport, would ask voters to approve a lottery and earmark proceeds to the General Fund. HB 13 also by Rep. Harper would allow the Legislature to write lottery laws.
HB 28 by Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, is a constitutional amendment to repeal local bingo constitutional amendments and establish an Alabama Lottery Corp. Knight’s HB 29 would authorize electronic bingo in Greene, Jefferson, Macon, and Mobile counties, and in the town of White Hall.
In addition to Sen. McClendon’s two lottery bills, other senators sponsored constitutional amendments to authorize a lottery.
SB 14 by Sen. Paul Sanford, R-Huntsville, would authorize Alabama’s participation only in multi-state lottery games such as Mega-Millions and Powerball. Proceeds would be earmarked to the General Fund.
SB 26 by Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Bay Minette, would instruct the governor to negotiate a compact for the operation of Class III gaming at Poarch Creek Indian casinos.
Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, introduced SB 34, a constitutional amendment, to authorize a lottery and earmark proceeds to the General Fund.
Reps. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, and Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, Sens. Sanford, and Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, sponsored bills to authorize a bond issue backed by BP oil spill proceeds.
Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, sponsored SB 20, a constitutional amendment authorizing a 5-mill property earmarked to Medicaid.
Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, D-Birmingham, sponsored SB 33, a constitutional amendment to add a 5 mill ad valorem tax. Four mills would be earmarked to Medicaid and 1 mill to Metropolitan Planning Organizations.